Life in Plastic: How Mattel Created Its New, Diverse Line of Barbie Dolls

Last week, Mattel announced a new line of Barbie dolls with a difference. For the first time ever, Barbie will be made in three new body types: Petite, Tall, and Curvy. The new line of diverse dolls has got the world talking about Barbie again - but not everyone realises that the iconic figure is also a symbol of innovations in plastic. From the very beginning, Barbie has been proof that life in plastic really is fantastic.

Early Days

When Barbie was born in 1959, Mattel manufactured the dolls with soft vinyl. But there was a snag: when injected, the vinyl didn't always fill all the cavities of the mould. To solve the problem of incomplete doll parts, Mattel rotation moulded the arms and legs, turning them slowly as the vinyl hardened in the mould. This kind of thermo moulding is now one of the most rapidly growing plastic processing methods used today.

Going Green

When tough new environmental laws were introduced in Europe, Mattel had to rethink Barbie's chemical makeup. One of her main components was PVC (polyvinyl chloride). The kind of PVC produced in the 1960s produced hydrochloric acid when incinerated, which had been linked to acid rain. There were also new regulations on the amount of plasticiser used in PVC, due to concerns about the potential dangers of toys being swallowed. Mattel complied, making Barbie's legs less flexible and removing PVC from her packaging. They even promised to use more recycled materials.

Barbie Today

Today, Barbie is created with a range of innovative plastics. Her head is made from a vinyl compound, her arms from EVA (ethylene-vinyl acentate), her torso from an engineering thermoplastics polymer called ABS (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene) and her legs from polypropylene and PVC - a safer kind from the early models.

The New Dolls

Creating a line of diverse Barbie dolls was a huge two-year project for Mattel. The new 2016 Barbie doll line includes four body types (the original and three new bodies), seven skin tones, 22 eye colours, and 24 hairstyles. It was a big logistical challenge for the manufacturing process: new moulds, new skin colours, new hair textures. But as sales rise for the first time in two years, Mattel thinks it's been worth it.

In a press release, Evelyn Mazzocco, Senior Vice President and Global General Manager of Barbie, said: "We are excited to literally be changing the face of the brand -these new dolls represent a line that is more reflective of the world girls see around them - the variety in body type, skin tones and style allows girls to find a doll that speaks to them."

Would your business benefit from an innovation in plastic? Then get in touch with Coda Plastics today. Call us on +441692 501020 to start discussing your ideas.

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